June 18, 2014

National energy storage research network takes shape

University of Calgary-based initiative brings together scientists, experts from industry and government for two-day workshop

On June 9 and 10, the Calgary Advanced Energy Storage and Conversion Research (CAESR) group hosted a workshop on electrochemical energy storage. The event, chaired by Kunal Karan, associate director of CAESR and associate professor in chemical and petroleum engineering, drew more than 50 national members of the academic, industrial and government communities to discuss the technological side of electrochemical energy storage.

“We had about 80 per cent of the key energy storage academic researchers in Canada in attendance, along with government representation and also very good industry participation” says Viola Birss, director of CAESR and professor in the Department of Chemistry. “There’s a strong sense of excitement because this workshop has brought together Canadian researchers that are working on a number of different energy storage technologies, including batteries, capacitors and electrochemical water splitting, commonly known as electrolysis.”

One of their main objectives was to map Canadian academic expertise in the field. CAESR will then take these findings and develop a research network focused on electrochemical energy storage systems. The University of Calgary-based network would allow for researchers from across Canada to focus on solving carefully chosen problems together. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm about developing a common go-forward plan. Everyone is making creative suggestions on topics that they can see working together on,” says Birss. 

Industry attendees brought their concerns and ideas to the table, showing a great deal of interest in the energy storage field. “We are also planning an Industry Day where we really focus specifically on their needs and showcase our technologies at the industry level,” says Birss. “We anticipate that this will be held towards the end of this year or in early 2015.”

Venkataraman Thangadurai, associate director of CAESR, was pleased with the outcomes of the workshop. “Collaborative events like these help us to establish our institution as a leader in energy storage technologies,” says Thangadurai. “The excellent work being done in this field supports the possibility of integrating renewable resources and electrochemical energy storage.”

Industry and government participation strengthens effort
“Having industry and government participation at events like this is crucial,” says Karan. “We want to work on problems that would lead either to the development of a new technology, or work on existing technologies, such as batteries, which could then help technology developers adopt our new ideas.”

Involving industry and government at the planning stages will also ensure that the research network is adapting its work to the industry landscape. “We need to make sure that we’re working on the right problems correctly,” says Karan. “Any changes in policy can influence which technology becomes viable, when and how. You need to know the local and regional landscapes, literally and politically, for regulation purposes, and what the technology needs are. No single technology is the answer. A spectrum of energy technologies must be explored and developed.”

Research vision emphasizes collaboration and innovation
"The University of Calgary is committed to supporting vital research activities, like the work CAESR undertook here today," says Ed McCauley, vice-president (research). "Their efforts to align with industry and other world-class researchers exemplify the collaboration and innovation central to achieving our Eyes High vision of being one of the top five research institutions in Canada by 2016. We look forward to all that they will accomplish." Earlier in 2014, CAESR was named one of four recipients of the Vice-President (Research) Matching Funds to Advance Energy Research for their energy storage research project, which included the workshop. 

CAESR will now take the information gathered at the workshop and synthesize it to outline the next steps of organizing the research network and its priorities. “These are the early stages of a lot of hard work,” says Karan. “We are overwhelmed, in a positive way, by the amount of participation that we have had.”